Singapore's healthcare capacity can be expanded for Covid-19 needs: Gan Kim Yong

A doctor at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital entering the negative pressure room of the intensive care unit to check on a Covid-19 patient last month. Singapore has around 150 vacant intensive care beds and can quickly bring another 300 on board, said H
Singapore has around 150 vacant intensive care beds and can quickly bring another 300 on board, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Hospitals have rapidly increased the number of isolation beds in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and will do the same for intensive care beds if necessary, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong yesterday.

Thousands of beds have also been set up outside hospitals for patients who are only mildly ill, to ensure Singapore retains the capacity to care for the most critical coronavirus cases in hospitals.

"We have planned ahead, created and ramped up many different types of healthcare facilities to support the specific needs of Covid-19 patients," Mr Gan told Parliament in a ministerial statement.

"In addition, our healthcare system has the flexibility to stretch our capacity to respond to increasing demand."

There are nearly 1,500 isolation beds available in hospitals today, up from about 550 in January.

The National Centre for Infectious Diseases has also increased its capacity from around 100 negative pressure isolation beds to more than 500 in the same period.

In addition, public hospitals have postponed non-urgent elective procedures and moved medically stable "long-stayer" patients to step-down care facilities.

Singapore also has around 150 vacant intensive care beds and can quickly bring another 300 on board, Mr Gan added.

At present, 25 of the more than 18,000 Covid-19 patients are in intensive care.

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"But we are not taking any chances as we must preserve our buffer capacity," he told the House.

Public hospitals have put in place plans to ensure that their infrastructure, equipment, medications and manpower are in place to add another 450 intensive care unit beds by the middle of this month if necessary, he added.

  • 8,000 Daily virus testing capacity now, up from 2,900 a day early last month. Plans are in place to increase capacity to up to 40,000 a day.

    1,500 Nearly this number of isolation beds now, up from about 550 in January.

    150 Number of vacant intensive care unit beds, with the ability to quickly add another 300.

    10,000 More than this number of beds in community care facilities, with another 10,000 being set up.

    2,000 Around this number of beds in community recovery facilities. This will go up to more than 10,000 by the end of next month.

    11,000 More than this number of sign-ups with SG Healthcare Corps, with 800 matched to needs on the ground.

    50 Number of contact tracing teams now, up from 20 in March.

Singapore has also ensured that it has enough ventilators and other medical equipment to support the care of such patients.

More than 10,000 beds have been set up in community care facilities such as the Singapore Expo, and this number is set to double, the minister said.

These facilities typically house patients who have only mild symptoms and do not need extensive medical support.

Bed spaces in community recovery facilities, for patients who are past the 14th day of their illness but still need to be isolated, are also being ramped up.

There are currently around 2,000 community recovery facility beds - some in dormitories and others in army camps. This will go up to more than 10,000 beds by the end of next month.

"As our community recovery facilities increase, we can also free up spaces at the community care facilities," Mr Gan said.

In other countries, healthcare systems have been overwhelmed and death rates among coronavirus patients have soared.

Nominated MP Irene Quay asked if Singapore has an ethical framework to allocate healthcare resources in such a situation.

"We are working hard to avoid getting to this point," Mr Gan replied.

He added that Singaporeans should not be complacent despite the progress made over the past few weeks, as there are still unlinked cases in the community.

Places which report low daily infection numbers, such as China, Hong Kong, South Korea and New Zealand, remain alert for a new wave of infections.

"Hence we must continue to do what we can to keep our cases low, to keep the lid tight, even as we gradually roll back some of our circuit breaker measures," Mr Gan said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2020, with the headline Singapore's healthcare capacity can be expanded for Covid-19 needs: Gan Kim Yong. Subscribe